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Environ Health. 2013 Aug 15;12:63. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-12-63.

Increased sex ratio in Russia and Cuba after Chernobyl: a radiological hypothesis.

Author information

1
Institute of Computational Biology, Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany. scherb@helmholtz-muenchen.de.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The ratio of male to female offspring at birth may be a simple and non-invasive way to monitor the reproductive health of a population. Except in societies where selective abortion skews the sex ratio, approximately 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. Generally, the human sex ratio at birth is remarkably constant in large populations. After the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in April 1986, a long lasting significant elevation in the sex ratio has been found in Russia, i.e. more boys or fewer girls compared to expectation were born. Recently, also for Cuba an escalated sex ratio from 1987 onward has been documented and discussed in the scientific literature.

PRESENTATION OF THE HYPOTHESIS:

By the end of the eighties of the last century in Cuba as much as about 60% of the food imports were provided by the former Soviet Union. Due to its difficult economic situation, Cuba had neither the necessary insight nor the political strength to circumvent the detrimental genetic effects of imported radioactively contaminated foodstuffs after Chernobyl. We propose that the long term stable sex ratio increase in Cuba is essentially due to ionizing radiation.

TESTING OF THE HYPOTHESIS:

A synoptic trend analysis of Russian and Cuban annual sex ratios discloses upward jumps in 1987. The estimated jump height from 1986 to 1987 in Russia measures 0.51% with a 95% confidence interval (0.28, 0.75), p value < 0.0001. In Cuba the estimated jump height measures 2.99% (2.39, 3.60), p value < 0.0001. The hypothesis may be tested by reconstruction of imports from the world markets to Cuba and by radiological analyses of remains in Cuba for Cs-137 and Sr-90.

IMPLICATIONS OF THE HYPOTHESIS:

If the evidence for the hypothesis is strengthened, there is potential to learn about genetic radiation risks and to prevent similar effects in present and future exposure situations.

PMID:
23947741
PMCID:
PMC3765590
DOI:
10.1186/1476-069X-12-63
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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